maeve66: (Read Motherfucking Books All Damn Day)
This is a placeholder post, the comments for which are meant to be a place for suggesting three hundred and sixty-five grown-up (or at least not moronic or banal or jejune) topics for blogging. I have two post topics, so I'll put them in the comments. Please, anyone should feel free to contribute. [personal profile] sabotabby's idea was to start actually blogging the topics on January 1st 2013. Ambitious!

ETA: I have corralled what suggestions there have been so far, and added some, and we are 1/10th of the way to 365 topics. Hm. I should probably put this behind a cut. )

12/16/12: now at 75 topics! Twenty more and we'll be a quarter of the way through the year. I hope the contributions keep coming in. S-J, where are you? Also, [profile] slantedeyes65, where are YOU? And everybody else, more please, more!

1/2/13: I will keep trying to add topics, but at this point what I think I am going to do is just dip into this about twice a week, so that I have topics to write on whether or not I am inspired to write in LJ (or DW, whatever). My niece is finally blogging, but she chose Blogger, sigh.
maeve66: (Read Motherfucking Books All Damn Day)
Day 1: Have reading and writing changed (in utility, in purpose, in percentage of literacy, in any way) since the advent of video?

There ended up being 75 topics, and maybe I'll come up with more, and I'll leave that post stuck at the top there, in case anyone ELSE wants to come up with more topics, but meanwhile, I thought what I might do is write a couple of these entries a week, not forcing myself to write every day. My mother SAYS she might join me and do one entry a week, to sort of ease her way into blogging. I hope she does. [profile] redlibrarian39, I'm talking to YOU. Even my older niece has gotten into the blogging act, but she's using Blogger, with a friend of hers in NYC. They're silly and funny, the pair of them, and also very good at writing.

On today's topic -- honestly, I feel like I shot my bolt on this when I made my class write on the topic basically as a punishment when they couldn't settle down one day last year (and by last year I mean, during the 2011-2012 school year). If I could find the handwritten two pages I did then, I'd scan them and put them in here. I don't want to rewrite the whole thing from memory. What I write below is not what I wrote that day, though it may share some elements.

Anecdotally, as a teacher, I feel that the worth of learning to read complicated or deep material has suffered since the popularization of TV, movies, and videos in general. Even when I was a kid, our culture was still not entirely video-saturated -- our crappy black and white TV got only, what, between six and nine channels, and stopped broadcasting at midnight, going to crackly snow. And movies were an occasional treat, at a movie theater, for $3.25. $2.25, matinee. Probably my generation watched fewer movies, in fact, than children in the fifties, for who (at least according to Stephen King) it seems to have been a weekly thing. In any case, before I digress further -- reading was the imaginative escape I sought, at any rate. I know that there was already (in fact, that there doubtless always was) a large proportion of kids who thought reading was boring, most likely because they weren't great at it. That's the thing. I didn't really understand until I took credentialing classes in teaching reading that it was such a hard skill to acquire. If you understand anything less than 95% of the words in a selection you are reading, the frustration level is so high that you won't understand enough of the text to continue it. Thus, the smaller reading vocabulary you have, the crappier things (generally -- the "lower interest" texts) you'll have available to read at your reading level. But if you challenge yourself too much, the frustration pushes you down.

More than that -- because I think that that problem must have existed since literacy has existed -- with all of the diversions and distractions and substitutions for text offered by audio-visual narratives, I think that people in the past generation or so have not developed the skill of picturing what they either read, or hear, in their head. I ask students what they picture when I am reading aloud, and most of them have a hard time, unless there is a movie version of the text, and they've seen it. For me, I always had such a clear picture in my mind from fiction that I was almost universally disappointed by the look imposed on characters if a film WAS made from whatever the book was. My niece is like that. My students are mostly not like that -- at least the ones in the English/Language Arts Support class are not like that.

It is a little hard to tell whether the students who don't have a Support class have that mental picturing skill to a higher degree... from their weekly reading logs, it is clear that some of them read challenging and complex texts (one kid is seriously working his way through a number of 19th century classics, from Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson through Melville's Moby Dick) and that they do imagine scenes... they write specifically about what they can picture in part of the daily log. But for many of them, they read and reread the Wimpy Kid books, or the Junie B. Jones books, both of which are elementary school level texts...

Science fiction has had a lot to say, predictively, about whether reading will cease to be something that the majority of people can do. Maybe I am more affected by reading sci fi than by looking at actual data? The two authors whose predictions I remember most immediately are Neal Stephenson and John Varley. For Stephenson, most non-elite people in his corporatized future (in one book, Snow Crash the only political states are the balkanized corporations and private companies which own and run each aspect of society) only "read" what he calls mediaglyphs, which are some set of symbols you can use to operate various machines -- like the icons on your desktop -- "open", "close", "turn on", "turn off", "go forward" etc. For Varley, he doesn't get as specific about what remnants of literacy there might be, except that in his 8 Worlds novel* that is focused on a journalist and the world of news coverage Steel Beach there are (actually, also in The Golden Globe, another of the 8 Worlds novels) there are carefully "leveled" versions of any text, from fully written, through something with a limited vocabulary, to simply audio and visual, which he assumes is the version the vast majority access. Written -- electronically, on pads much like today's tablets -- newspapers are quaint dinosaurs entirely subsidized by the State. Varley (although he seems himself to be a libertarian) does HAVE a State, unlike Stephenson's mini-entities. Varley's State is, however, run by a Central Computer that is functionally self-aware and smarter than humans are capable of being.

Okay, I digressed again. Nevertheless, I think my point is, overall... that maybe literacy for the majority IS something that is going to be transformed by our culture's increasing use of video for every purpose. You know, unless we reach a capitalist and ecological crisis that has us starkly facing "socialism or barbarism" and ending up with barbarism. In that case, I guess reading words written by hand on some facsimile of paper will again become a crucial skill. OR NOT (that latter option would be the conclusion drawn by one of my mother's favorite post-Apocalyptic novels -- yes, she loves that whole genre -- Earth Abides.
maeve66: (fairylights dhamaka)
Michael Jackson's a cappella voice singing a schmaltzy Xmas song when he was eight or something. "Give Love on Christmas Day". It's ridiculous, but I love Xmas music, of most varieties. Every year I try to buy a new album of some sort.

Changing my laptop's wallpaper to a picture like the one in my icon -- fairylights from a past Xmas tree photographed by a moving camera. It seems odd that laptop wallpaper can affect my mood, but it totally can.

Drinking tea.

Eating sliced jarlsberg cheese on buttered toast, and also excellent beef-thyme-barley soup from Mama's Royal Cafe which I got to go right before they closed this afternoon. I need to make some Scotch lamb barley stew, mmm. Lamb and carrots and thyme and bay leaf and onions and barley in a chicken broth, but very thickened by the barley.

Eggnog

Reading a Regency Romance -- even though it is by another LDS author: damn these LDS authors are EVERYWHERE. You know why, right? Because they are stay-at-home-mothers. Yes, of course housework is labor, and should be recompensed by the State. Nevertheless, I might be an author in those circumstances. Maybe. Anyway, this LDS woman's politics are sort of... compelling to try to tease out in her plots and such.

Going to bed hella early. I've got about another hour. This FUCKING sinus/ear whatever it is is still kicking my ass.
maeve66: (journaling)
Obviously yes -- since I wasn't addicted a year ago and am not now -- and also yes, if by Tumblr you mean LJ, I am still into LiveJournal, stubbornly clinging on to the small circle of people I feel I know on this platform.
No. I'll write the second part of my proposed Silhouette Desire trilogy, or edit my first one, but I won't write a short love story.
maeve66: (journaling)
Oh, my god, the relief at being able to fucking post to LJ... I mean, I imported the rest of my recent entries to Dreamwidth, yes, but it is being insanely slow at loading, too, and ... well, here are my issues with it -- I don't really care about what [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid critiques as being spammed by them a billion times a week about trolling -- I don't think I actually get those emails in my inbox; they stay at DW, where I ignore them, knowing that of the 72 emails in that inbox, none are from anyone I actually know. HOWEVER, here are ye Issues, and if you know of solutions, or whatever, tell me:

1. There doesn't seem to be a profile page with a place for writing out one's numerous and recherché interests. How, therefore, can I search interests, other than in the clunky way of laboriously thinking up an interest and typing it into the search interests field, which then gives me only a page of icons and titles of various DW journals (most of which, when I just did this, hadn't been updated for 78 weeks).

2. Relatedly, it's hard to see who other people are "reading", e.g. friended to, without such a User Info page. Maybe there is one, and I'm just missing it? With interests listed and a short bio and a list of friended journals? You know, like LiveJournal has?

3. Of people I know here, LITERALLY only five have found me and friended me there -- [livejournal.com profile] oursin, [livejournal.com profile] springheel_jack, [livejournal.com profile] florence_craye; [livejournal.com profile] ironed_orchid; and [livejournal.com profile] sabotabby.

4. Can't list the music you're listening to -- I mean, I guess I COULD, by hand, at the bottom of any given entry. But I won't always remember. I sort of like that feature.

3. DW, too, is loading pages at a snail's pace.

Okay, now REALLY, the next entry (should LJ remain open for business for a while, today) will be on the topic of all things Hindi related. So, if any of the between 13 and 24 of you who read this journal want to be on THAT filter, please comment on that post.

ETA: Okay, I have seen the profile page and updated my interests, so that helps somewhat
maeve66: (some books)
Well, that previous entry was somewhat cathartic. My mom liked it, anyway. Now, back to our interrupted scheduling of non-stop writing about young adult fiction authors. I think I'll do fantasy. I'm saving historical YAF (which may be my favorite subgenre) until entry fifteen, halfway through.

Fantasy (YAF) authors whose names I would bandy far and wide:

J. K. Rowling

Philip Pullman

Christopher Paolini

Gail Carson Levine

Anne McCaffrey

Robin McKinley

Diana Wynne Jones

Monica Furlong


The organizing principle in the list above, by the way, is from authors who have books which have been made into films through authors who have not, in more or less order of fame.

Read the details, if you want )
maeve66: (some books)
Wow, I'm more than a third of the way done, thank whatever. The patron saint of books, apparently.

Today: One Hit Wonders

More or less. Some of them have written more than one book, but not much more. Some of them apparently only had one book in them, possibly distilling some childhood experience... some of them write primarily for adults, but had one YAF book percolating away in their mind. Some of them died young. One of them.

The authors:

Yuri Suhl

Indi Rana

Vonda McIntyre

Pamela Sargent

Frances Temple


Yuri Suhl's book, Uncle Misha's Partisans, is part of the quite extensive subgenre of YAF-fiction-on-the-Holocaust. His is virtually unique, however, because it is about Jewish partisans in the Ukraine. Apparently it is based on his own childhood, though in some ways it so perfectly fulfills the fantasy that there was a way to resist and survive the Nazis that it's hard to believe it could be true. Other excellent entries in this subgenre include Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, and Jane Yolen's other book -- The Devil's Arithmetic, which mixes a sort of time travel/Holocaust trope, and is very, very good. I guess it's more YAF than Briar Rose, which shares elements of a romance and general fiction.

Anyway, Yuri Suhl's book was the first one I'd ever read about the partisans, and it caught my imagination, deeply. The scenes where partisans execute a collaborating Ukraine policeman, after fooling his wife into letting them wait for him in her village house, which is stuffed with loot from local deported Jews... chilling. And the young male protagonist manages to be a hero in a way that is believable. The tone of the book is not unlike some sort of meld of the 1970s miniseries (the late 70s was a great time for epic miniseries, like Roots and this one) Holocaust and Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldiers -- I am extremely miffed that that last book is not available as an ebook. Yet, I hope. I don't know how available Uncle Misha's Partisans is -- let me check. Well, you can buy it used. And, in fact, there is now a true-to-life biography of Mottele, the hero of Yuri Suhl's book, a young Jewish violinist/partisan. See, here.

Indi Rana wrote a book I return to again and again (well, I return to a lot of books, but this one is a special favorite). The Roller Birds of Rampur is the story of an Indian-British girl who has come up against the deep racism of her white boyfriend's family, in her final year before college. Or A levels or something like that, anyway. She becomes incredibly depressed, and decides to go stay with her grandparents on a working farm in India. The story deals with how she comes to terms with who she is, having been raised in Britain, and also how she struggles with what India is like -- especially caste and the condition of peasant women. Her grandfather was a Marxist who came to question Stalinism's utility for India... he talks with her a lot about Hindu philosophy, dharma, karma, etc. The book is thoughtful and moving and informative, all three. I love it. I wish she'd written more, but as far as I know, she hasn't. She has a worthy competitor, however, in the more recent books by Kashmira Sheth. I'll do her another time.

Vonda McIntyre and Pamela Sargent. These are both female authors of sci fi which is more often written for adults. But each of them have written at least one book that more properly is YAF. Vonda McIntyre's Barbary is a good piece of sci-fi -- space station, cat, teenage girl... gah, I'm having difficulty remembering more of the plot! That's not a good advertisement for it! But she's a great writer of sci fi in general, just trust me on this! I have a hard time knowing which novels of hers I like the best... I love Dreamsnake which I think I read while I was still in middle school. And I like her immediate future quartet about spaceflight and alien encounters, and her books which deal with intentionally bioengineered aquatic humans, the Divers. Her politics are very good.

Pamela Sargent wrote Earthseed, which is a YAF story about a colony ship with only children aboard, heading for a new planet and trying to teach them how to survive. It's quite bleak, and while it predates Octavia Butler by a long way (I am pretty sure... I guess I should check), there are distinct similarities in some of the plot, and in the tone, with Butler's Dawn. I wish Sargent, too, had written more. Ha! In fact, surprise ending, she has. "Without fanfare..." as Amazon puts it. Indeed. She just recently continued the Earthseed idea -- it was written in 1983 -- and last year put out Farseed, and coming this November, Seed Seeker. They sound great, if not as groundbreaking as Earthseed. Now to check when Dawn was first published. Maybe it came first! No, I don't think so. Dawn seems to have been published in 1997 or so. But at least I was able just now to download Lilith's Brood, which is all of the Xenogenesis trilogy, via Borders' ebooks.

Frances Temple -- yikes! I left her off... she more properly belongs in my historical YAF entry, but she's definitely part of this group, too. She wrote a great medieval period YAF book, The Ramsay Scallop, which covers similar territory to basically all of the Karen Cushman books (that is, England in the Middle Ages), but has less humor and more consideration of what pilgrimage meant to Catholics. The main characters in this book are on their way to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, and on their way, they encounter an Andalusian Muslim, who strangely hasn't yet been expelled. Well... I can't remember right now the exact time (apart from Queen Isabella of Spain finishing off Granada or wherever, before funding Columbus) most Moors were expelled... so maybe his lone existence isn't strange. But he seems to be alone. Anyway, a useful exploration of religion, race, and otherness. Frances Temple also wrote a book about children during Papa Doc's Haiti. She was pretty amazing. And then she died young, of cancer, which SUCKS.
maeve66: (some books)
THIS is for THURSDAY, July 22nd, not Friday, July 23rd, no matter what the damn date says. I forgot to save it when I started it, which was on Thursday, more than half an hour ago. Sigh.

Oh, god. I am less in the mood to do this right now than ever, given the personal events of the day. But I said I would. I grit my teeth and churn on. Where am I on this list of young adult fiction authors? I should do it thematically, instead of author by author. I said I would do a bunch of authors who do class well -- it's not that common.

Many YAF authors aim at the amorphous American (or British, but usually this is an American failing) middle class, sometimes shading to upper middle class. Andrew Clements, who I like well as an author of school stories, is kind of like this. He can write well for suburban or rural American middle class up to children in private school settings, kids with a lot of money. But except for The Janitor's Boy, he doesn't do well at all with characters who are from the working class, or who are not white. His book The Jacket, which is about how a white kid's mother gives away his worn-out or outgrown jacket to her black cleaning lady, who gives it to her own grandson, and how the white kid sees it at school and thinks the boy stole it from him -- that book is EXCRUCIATING. Every note hit in it is wrong, wrong, painful, wrong.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, and hitting each note perfectly, are the books about a kid with ADHD, Joey Pigza, by Jack Gantos. I have written about the Joey Pigza series when I was considering YAF books that treated various disabilities, but I didn't really talk about how well they did class. Joey's parents are separated, and he lives with his father's mother, who is cantankerous and actually mean. Her rickety house is described perfectly, as are the marginal jobs his parents sometimes hold, and the small town generally underemployed America he lives in. In one of the books (What Would Joey Do?, deliberately titled that) Joey is taken out of public school because his IEP is not really being followed, or something (actually, there are no Individualized Educational Plans for kids with ADHD, even if they have it in a very severe form, as Joey does -- the first book is called Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, which he literally does. There are what are called 504 Plans, which are unfunded, i.e. it's a series of modifications which general ed. classroom teachers are supposed to try to implement. Anyway, Joey is taken out of school and added to a Christian neighbor's home schooled 'class'. It's extremely realistic. The series is marked by humor and realism, both, and sometimes the emotions are perilously near the bone.

Gantos is one of the best current authors who writes characters who aren't bounded by the safe middle class. Other authors... Norma Fox Mazer was one of the best. She only died last year, 2009, and I was sad to hear it... Many of her books are great -- she has a very strong, difficult entry in the time-travel to the prehistoric era novel, Saturday, the Twelfth of July -- and a very good escape from the Nazis one, Good Night, Maman... but her work which is my sentimental favorite is the one that shows class well -- it's a collection of her YAF short stories called Dear Bill, Remember Me?. There is one in there about a girl who lives with her uncle (I think, or father) in a trailer home, who makes chocolate pudding from scratch, and how she and a boy from her high school, but a considerably higher class level try to go out, and how it doesn't work, if I remember correctly. There are other fantastic stories in there, all realistic, all pretty nuanced.

Who else do I think has done class well? I guess I actually feel like Beverly Cleary wasn't bad with the Ramona books... the original ones (minus some of the Ozzie and Harriet-ness) and the later 70s ones in which her mother gets a job and her dad gets laid off... They're whitebread, yes, but at least they're not rich whitebread.

Trudy Krisher, who is a recent author, does class (also trailer parks, in fact) very well and in a regional style. She has two books, one of which is about the South during the Civil Rights Movement, and how a white teenager gets involved in it, against her family's wishes -- Spite Fences, and one of which is more contemporary. That's the trailer park one: Kinship -- ooh, I just saw that she has a newer book out about a teen in the McCarthy era, in North Carolina. THAT I need to get, and to review along with Ellen Klages, as they go together. Excellent.
maeve66: (some books)
Damn this is hard!

I again have to pretend like this is still today (which is IS, really) July 20th, and not July 21st (which it ISN'T, not really).

And it's fairly late, so I am less into writing about books and writing now than I might normally be. I saw an enjoyable Netflix instant watch tonight -- a Luc Besson film that involved a lot of parcour (parkour? I don't remember how they spell that pastime), District B13. The banlieues of Paris looked like themselves. The violence was comic book and/or balletic. The nuclear bomb was less annoying than I usually find them.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

I think her writing is excellent. She's been writing since the 1960s, at least. She reminds me of E. L. Konigsburg (and vice versa; they remind me of each other), in that they are both intelligent women who write intelligent, thoughtful books for young adults. Probably one of Snyder's best known books is her The Egypt Game, which is about some kids who have excellent imaginations and who construct an imaginary game based on ancient pharoahs and temples and play their stories in the back yards and alleys of an unnamed city. There is something deeply mesmerizing about the game itself, and there is also some unclear sense of menace surrounding the kids. It's a great book, and won an award, I think. A Newbery Honor Award -- not the medal.

I love her mid-seventies trilogy, about the land (or planet, I guess) of Green Sky -- it's this three book long treatment of pacifism and how democracy could work. I make it sound dry, but it's not, not at all. There's also some meditation on drugs as a way for people to escape, and corruption. It's a real world-building exercise. Good sci fi. Titles:

Below the Root

And All Between

Until the Celebration

She has of late done more sort of contemporary YAF novels, often about misfit intelligent kids. I've missed the last several, I see, looking at her website. But a late 90s one, Libby on Wednesday, was excellent in its treatment of precocious intelligence, cerebral palsy, and abuse.

She's good. I would like to own the Green Sky trilogy electronically, one way or another.

ETA: Plus, she just has the coolest damn NAME:

Zilpha Keatley Snyder



Zilpha
maeve66: (some books)
There. If I save this now and edit it, it will come out on July 18th, Sunday.

Ha ha! Success, in time-stamping this entry. I just got back from Inception... what a cast -- at least, I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy and that girl who played Juno --, ah, thank you IMDb, Ellen Page. And the guy who played the "chemist", Dileep Rao. And Ken Watanabe, for that matter. I TOTALLY did not recognize Tom Berenger... man, it's been a long time since I saw him in Platoon, in the theater. Apart from the cast though, the movie was much more McGuffin and concept than it was script or acting, sigh. Not an utter waste of time, but... what they call in Bollywood terms a 'timepass'. It was also (unexpectedly) of Bollywood duration, at almost three hours long.

Hm. It says 2 1/2 hours, but we didn't get out of the theater until almost 11:25, and the movie was billed as starting at 8:30.

Anyway. This entry was meant to be about the next YAF author on my list, who happens to be the British author K. M. Peyton. Peyton has been writing both historical and contemporary Brit YAF since the 1950s, with her more recent forays deeper into historical YAF. She has a book published as late as 2008, in fact, a trilogy set in Roman Britain, now, "for younger readers", and so far two books set in turn-of-the-19th-century Britain (and the new penal colony Australia), Small Gains* and Greater Gains.

Many of her earlier books are of the variety known as 'a girl and her horse' novels. Or her pony. I am not too into horses, so although I read those books -- like her Flambards series, which combines interest in horses with early (WWI) aviation -- I wasn't AS into them as the three she wrote about an Angry Young Man in the early 1970s. These three, Pennington's Seventeenth Summer**, The Beethoven Medal, and Pennington's Heir, are enjoyable both for their treatment of class -- the protagonist is the son of a bitter Irish woman and her labouring husband, I think in East Anglia-ish -- and of the period. I mean, the first book was published in 1970, but now they function almost as historical documents of the culture and politics of the period. At the outset of the trilogy, Pennington is in his final year at a comprehensive school where he is rebelling against the form masters by growing his hair long and playing "O Tannenbaum" at school assemblies, because it is the same tune as "The Worker's Flag" ("The workers' flag is deepest red/it oft has shrouded our martyred dead/So raise the workers' banner high/under it, we'll live or die/though cowards flinch and traitors sneer/we'll keep the red flag flying here"). The book also delves into the growing subculture of English folk songs -- the Child ballads and their rediscovery by folk artists of the sixties and seventies. Pennington, whose surname is used so consistently that it's hard for me to remember that his first name is Patrick, is a virtuoso piano prodigy, sprung from unlikely working class roots. But he has a volatile temper and deeply repressed angers that get him into constant trouble.

The whole trilogy has believable emotional depth, in Pennington's simmering frustration with feeling trapped by social expectations wherever he goes, and in the sort of hungering, hopeless romanticism that teenagers love (a more middle class girl, one of Peyton's pony heroines from at least one other novel, possibly two -- Ruth -- falls for Pennington and also does another sort of falling...). The books are hard to get hold of these days -- my mother and sister bought them used for me for last Christmas, but they're worth taking the trouble.

The last book of her more than sixty published works that I want to talk about is one from 1983, as Thatcher was consolidating her iron grip on Britain. It's called Who, Sir? Me, Sir? and is also a portrait of working class youth, in this case several misfits from a comprehensive school whose main teacher decides to enter them in a tetrathlon competition (some kind of 'athlon, anyway -- one with running, swimming, shooting, and horseriding) against kids from a local posh 'public school', as they insist on confusingly calling fee-demanding schools. This book does bring horses into it, but it's a great look at believable kids, from a weedy boy who is so self-doubting that he utters the titular sentence on such a regular basis that his nickname is Hoomey, to a Sikh boy whose grandfather was in the Cavalry, to a girl who hasn't quite got the hang of puberty yet, to a boy under constant threat of juvenile detention, or the borstal, whatever they call it.

Now I want to go find her recent books. I bet they're not available on any of my newfangled e-book reader forms -- not iBooks, not Amazon for Kindle, not Borders, not Kobe, or Barnes & Noble. Let's see. Nope, none of them are available in electronic-form, on any of the services I just listed. Sigh. But I can order them used from Amazon...

Anyway -- K. M. Peyton -- highly recommended!

*on Amazon, Small Gains is listed as selling NEW for ... $479.06. You can get it used from $4.55.

**in the US, I think the first one was also titled Pennington's Last Year. At school.
maeve66: (some books)
Yikes... I feel like I am slowing down on this meme. But I'd like to try to complete the whole thing, sort of out of grim persistence. Also, I am not going to note the fact that it is after midnight and therefore not the 17th anymore. It is functionally the seventeenth of July, okay?

To keep with the writery/readery theme, then... Michelle Magorian. Michelle Magorian is a writer who found her happy place, in terms of setting and theme, and she's sticking with it. I am not complaining about this -- her setting is England just during and after World War II, and she does a brilliant job of showing what England was like at different class levels, in different areas -- urban, rural -- and for both genders. Her most well-known book is Good Night, Mister Tom, which became a made-for-tv movie starring John Thaw, the guy who played Inspector Morse, as a reclusive, cranky old man in a small village at the outset of the Second World War who is forced by circumstance to take in a child evacuated from a working class district in London. The child has been abused, and the story explores this as well as the chosen family that Mister Tom and Will Beech form. It's also a coming of age story, a story of the social changes wrought by the war, and a good (okay, something of a starry-eyed, brimming-with-nostalgia) portrait of both English village life in the 1940s and of the London Blitz.

Her other stories are all in that same world, or in the early 1950s, after the war, and they're equally good -- some even better, and longer. Only a few of them have been published in the US, but I ended up getting some of them from England, because I like them so much.

Titles:

Good Night, Mister Tom

Back Home -- about a girl who was evacuated to a bohemian American family in upstate New York, who returns to Britain after the war to find that she no longer fits into her stuffy middle class context -- and, throughout the story, it slowly becomes clear that her mother does not, either. Excellent. It works for me both as an entry in the girls-fantasize-about-going-to-boarding-school genre, though it is trying to explode that, AND as an entrant in a particular subgenre *I* like, about counterculture in the late 1940s and 1950s... the underside of McCarthyism, if you will. There is an interesting and odd bit of connection to C. S. Lewis, in that the experimental modern schools he EXCORIATES in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (I think... the book which introduces Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole, at any rate), Magorian extolls, and to the same degree. I appreciated this.

Not a Swan (this is called something else in its American version, I can't remember what) -- a teenage girl and her two older sisters go to stay for the summer in a rural area while their mother tours with the British version of the USO. They learn how to be more independent (again shedding a class background that will no longer work so well after the war) and the protagonist experiences a sexual and eventually romantic awakening. She also succeeds at writing for publication, and solves a sort of mystery. This story is great about blinkered experiences of gender in the past, and about the vexing question of premarital sex, and when experimentation around that became more commonplace.

Cuckoo in the Nest Working class boy in post-war England yearns to be an actor

A Spoonful of Jam His younger sister goes to a posh school and also gets drawn into acting

Just Henry A boy wants to work in movies -- actually a cameraman -- and his family has issues because of a mysterious war death.

I haven't give the last three such long treatments just because my entries are tending to get a bit long. But be assured they're just as good -- Magorian is, after all, on her home stomping grounds here as well.

In fact, they're all great. I don't care if she ploughs the same literary ground forever; I just wish she'd write some more.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, maeve66 sent to me...
Twelve museums swimming
Eleven plays writing
Ten dykes a-doodling
Nine cafes cooking
Eight wobblies a-singing
Seven cats a-teaching
Six linguistics a-drawing
Five chi-i-i-ild ballads
Four sherlock holmes
Three ethical sluts
Two party names
...and a farsi in an american history.
Get your own Twelve Days:



I hate when I lose a lot of stuff I typed and I can't restore it. Hardly ever happens, but.

Okay. What had I written? First, that this meme seems very similar to the one I got last year, except that since then I added Farsi as an interest (also Hindi and Urdu and Arabic, I believe). Second, that those languages, especially Farsi and Arabic remind me that I learned something this Thanksgiving break: I was writing my niece Ruby and making a nonsense rhyme of her name -- Ruby-Rubaiyyat, and realized that I had no idea what that actually meant: I think I have always erroneously associated it with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that opium-addled poet, and his Xanadu, where Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome did decree.

Turns out a rubaiyyat is just a four-line stanza and poetic form common to Arabic and Farsi literature, with the rhyme scheme AABA, and sometimes the interlocking form AABA, BBCB, CCDC. I had no idea. I also didn't know that Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" was a rubaiyyat, but it is. Look:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Anyway, I wrote both my nieces little rubaiyyats, utter doggerel, of course. But it was fun.

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June 2017

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